Interview: Colin H. van Eeckhout On The New Amenra Album ‘De Doorn’

“It’s about courage, and fighting discouragement, it’s about burning solitude and silence. It’s about giving things a place and moving forward from that. It’s about passing on the ashes and spreading wisdom, trying to guide each other towards the light. If you see the true sadness on your friend’s face, and if that person is giving you advice about what you are going through, you will take that at heart, and no one else can do that with that magnitude, only the people you love. This record is the voice of those people which forges into one abstract, collective feeling that is telling you to have courage and find the light.” 

Ever since he started Amenra with Mathieu Vandekerckhove more than 20 years ago, Colin H. van Eeckhout has always had a clear idea of ​​what he wanted to convey through the band.

“A lot of our albums have light that seeps in at the end,” he says. “The outcomes after a concert or after listening to an album should be that despite the realisation and acknowledgement of all that darkness and negative aspects of life, you do have a tendency to move away from it, to drag it along with you if necessary, but overall, to keep moving towards what we call light— there is movement in every record. You came from the darkness and that negativity, and you move towards the light, towards a hopeful and positive conclusion. It should be something that gives you energy and gives you force, and that is definitely something that is part of our music.”

The new album, De Doorn, out this year on Relapse Records, is not an exception. It casts a 21-year journey for the band, from the heart of Belgium’s crusading hardcore scene to world-renowned, spiritually guided innovators, in an enthralling new light.

“I have always waved the flag that we wanted it to be real, and we wanted it to be truthful to who we are, and technically as well,” van Eeckhout continues. “With the symbols and the photographs, we use we always use things that are from Flanders and from the World Wars. For example, the bunkers, and things that are typical of Europe or Belgium. But it had never really occurred to me that I could sing in my own language. It was really weird, and it was only because we started playing the cover songs of a Flemish singer. It was at this point that I started realising how powerful our own language could be. That’s how the Flemish poetry seeped into the album.”

De Doorn is the first Amenra album to be sung entirely in Flemish. 

“We’re trying to be genuine and real, not trying to be something that we are not,” van Eekhout says. “Ultimately, using language that is not your own limits you. You cannot go into the same level of depth, and you cannot write in between the lines like you can in your own language, and play with words as much. I had never really realized that, and to us, it is important— our mothers don’t really speak English and speak Flemish, Dutch, Belgian. It was important to us to have at least one record that our mothers can understand.”

“My mother hasn’t gotten through the first song yet, she is always crying happily,” he continues. “It’s a risk you take as a musician by shutting out people from the content, but if we are able to transmit the essence of the song to the people, that’s really how powerful the medium of music can really be.”

De Doorn (or, ‘The Thorn’) occupies a place between Amenra’s recorded and live work, less a testimony to the band’s individual bereavements, more an invitation for others to come forward, and to pass through darkness into light. 

“The suffering and the sacrificing are necessary in life,” van Eeckhout explains. “There is no happiness without darkness and despair. There’s no good without bad. That’s how it is. But in our case, I got fascinated by thorn branches and the fact that it is a weapon crafted from nature, for a flower to protect its beauty, or for a plant to protect its seeds, to protect its fruits from the people that want to cause it harm. I really love how nature really provided its offspring with weapons, and then it made me think about how humans have developed their own personal thorns to protect themselves from everyone who wants to hurt them. That’s why the cover of the album is a study of a piece of art I was trying to make— the cover is thorn branches that are golden. We had spray painted them golden, and spraying something gold gives it status, gives it value in a human’s eyes. It’s only a branch but if it is gold, you give it value and it demands respect. It gets a certain amount of respect that it wouldn’t normally get if it was its normal color. There are six different thorn branches, and each branch symbolises a musician that is on the album. So, everyone has their own type of thorns, and their own types of wounds that they try to translate onto this records.”

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